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EXCLUSIVE: Council outlines how it will save millions
Five libraries, three care homes and a swimming pool look set to be axed in cost-cutting measures drawn up by Bradford Council.
Budget proposals reveal that the local authority intends to save more than £30 million in cuts to services in the next year.
The district’s five most underused public libraries – Addingham, Denholme, Heaton, Wilsden and Wrose – face being replaced by mobile services subject to consultation. All of them currently open for less than ten hours per week.
Manningham swimming pool and the care homes – Meadowcroft, Thackley Grange and Laurence House – are deemed not fit for purpose and are already subject to a statutory consultation process having been identified for closure long before the budget-setting process.
Council grants to the voluntary sector would be slimmed by 8.8 per cent to reflect the spending cuts passed down to the Council by the Government.
Eighty per cent of the cuts will come from trimming back office functions.
Spending on maintaining the district’s road network will be cut by £300,000 and some traffic schemes may suffer delays as the highway service’s priority is to repair pot holes caused by recent bad weather.
But, under the proposals put together by the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green groups, council tax will be frozen from April.
The future of the Free City Bus was assured for another year despite fears it would be discontinued by campaigners. No Sure Start or family centres would shut and the Council would continue to contribute its financial support of Police Community Support Officers.
Total savings of £48.6m have been identified, with £4.6m already saved by council job vacancy control and a top management restructure. Another £14m will be saved through the ‘Changing Our Council’ initiative aimed at de-layering management structures and reducing bureaucracy.
Speaking at a meeting of the executive in the Council Chamber yesterday, Council leader Ian Greenwood said: “Clearly we live in very difficult times and have very difficult decisions to take. There are differences of opinion about why we are in the position we are in and we will no doubt have some element of that in the meeting of the (full) council.”
He paid tribute to everyone who had contributed to the proposals in a thoughtful way and with decency in what had been an “extremely difficult” process.
“What we have tried to do in contemplating this budget is make sure the most vulnerable people that we serve are protected to the best of our ability,” he said.
“If possible we would like to avoid compulsory redundancies. People are extremely worried about the situation and we want to give them as much comfort as we can.”
Commenting on the council tax freeze, he said: “A rise in council tax in these difficult circumstances would be an additional imposition on the people of the district.
“Eighty per cent of the savings would be made from back office functions, negotiating contracts and increased charges but I don’t pretend it won’t hit people.”
He said care had been taken to protect adult and children’s services from “indiscriminate attacks” made in other council budgets and they had resisted making wholesale closures of day centres.
Government grants for children’s services had been reduced by more than £4m, however the proposals are designed to absorb the shortfall in the overall package so that the Council “can continue to invest in the most vulnerable people”, he said.
Similar regeneration grant shortfalls would also be countered by setting baseline budget for regeneration of £4m.
Coun Greenwood said the number of job losses and proposals affecting capital building projects were being finalised. The latter will be presented at a reconvened meeting of the executive on Tuesday.
He said the highest priority building projects were new schools for children with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties and children with communication and interaction difficulties.
The Council’s uniformed services, such as park rangers, street wardens and parking enforcement officers, would merge to save management costs.
Financial advice services would continue to receive funding and the events budget will be reviewed, which could see Bradford Mela being held over one day instead of two.
The proposal seeks a £300,000 spending reduction in relation to elected members.
Apprenticeships and support for schools would receive an extra £2m funding and significant capital support would be maintained for the city centre’s regeneration.
Coun Greenwood said: “The city centre clearly is massively important for all of us. It’s our front door and we need to make sure our front door is painted properly.”
- Closure-threatened Addingham Library could be saved if community groups are encouraged to take over the running of the service, a senior councillor has said.
Councillor Adrian Naylor, who is also regeneration spokesman for the Conservatives on Bradford Council, said a consultation should be carried out to allow interested groups to come forward.
He said: “Addingham is a rural location and while it’s not unexpected that the Council will look to make cuts and therefore close libraries, one of the biggest issues I have is around the fact that there has been no consultation with the local community with regard to alternative provision.”
- Read more on this story in Saturday's T&A